The 2019 high school football season got off to a soaking wet start when the skies opened up on Aug. 20 and poured on Camas players and coaches for the first day of practice.
The players appeared to love the shower, and so did a few enthusiastic parents watching from the bleachers.
“I just know it’s exciting,” said Shaunene Edward, whose son Robert is a senior on the team. “I love to hear them yell at each other and get that excitement and fighting spirit. They are shouting and working out and giving 110 percent. You just love them. It makes you want to be here.”
The driving rains didn’t change a thing for Papermakers head coach Jon Eagle and his experienced assistant coaches. The first practice session of the season was intense, focused and highly organized – just as you would expect for a team on a mission.
‘Revenge Tour’ coming to a stadium near you
Last year Camas went 5-5 and failed to advance to the 4A state tournament for the first time in eight seasons. The Papermakers lost their five games by a total of 20 points, with their season coming to an end with a one-point loss to Bothell in a Week 10 winner-to-state contest.
Eagle and his assistants sat down after the season to reevaluate the program.
“(We asked ourselves), ‘What can we do as coaches to make ourselves better?”’ Eagle said. “We decided to really push our offseason training, and the kids responded great. We’ve had a great offseason, and I’m really happy with how hard kids have worked and all that good stuff.” The senior-heavy team has dubbed this season the “revenge tour.”
“They are really frustrated that they lost a few games last year, and they are determined,” Shaunene Edward said. “My son told me, ‘Mom, we are going to win every game this season, you watch.'”
Linemen ready to lead
Camas’ linemen will lead the charge, thanks to the efforts of seniors Caaydn Stephen and Rush Reimer. Stephen is being recruited by a long list of colleges, including several Pac-12 programs, and Reimer has already signed to continue his career at Montana State University along with Papermakers kicker Bryce Leighton.
Camas also features an experienced core group of receivers. Jackson Clemmer is a returning starter who is figuring out how to use his 6-foot-6 frame as a weapon, according to Eagle.
“I think he’s just starting to realize what a force he can be,” Eagle said. “He had two touchdown receptions against Bellevue (last season) and had a great spring and summer. Sometimes guys that big don’t realize how impactful they can be.”
Joining Clemmer at wide receiver will be fellow senior Dante Humble. Another senior, Charlie Bump, has impressed his coaches during summer workouts.
The Papermakers also have two experienced tight ends in senior Titan Phillips and senior Kenny Wright. Both players are expected to receive major playing time on offense and defense. Camas coaches say the team’s top running back appears to be junior Jacques Badaloto-Birdsell, but there are three other running backs who will all play key roles. Experienced senior Randy Yaccoub has been working hard in the offseason, and Eagle likes Yaccoub’s work ethic.
“He’s got good vision and a fast first step and makes nice cuts,” Eagle said. “He’s tough and he spends a lot of time in the weight room and is not an easy tackle.”
Senior Tyler Forner will also play running back as well as defense, and junior Gabe Guo will also run the ball for Camas this season.
Finally, junior Jake Blair, an accomplished athlete who has committed to continue his baseball career at Seattle University, returns to lead the team at quarterback. However, Eagle said senior Blake Ascuitto has also looked good in early practices.
The Papermakers have a chance to start their “revenge tour” with a bang when they open the season against Lincoln High School on Friday, Sept. 6, at Doc Harris Stadium. Last season, the Camas played Lincoln in Tacoma and fell behind 31-0 before mounting a comeback that ultimately fell short in a 31-29 defeat.
“(Lincoln) is loaded with talent,” Eagle said. “They are a team that brings a fair amount of guys back from last year’s playoff team.”